FOR many people the last week has been a sobering experience unlike any in living memory.

The week began with the government announcing a series of stringent social distancing measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

These included guidance for people over 70s, those with underlying health conditions and pregnant women to avoid going to pubs, restaurants, theatres and bars and to restrict all non-essential travel.

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After mounting speculation, the government announced midweek that schools would close from Friday.

Then as the extraordinary week drew to a close, Boris Johnson took the unprecedented step of ordering pubs, clubs and restaurants to shut up shop.

And with each passing day the death toll from the coronavirus continues to rise, with the society’s most vulnerable most at risk.

While many have started to adapt to this scary new world, others have rallied round those who will be most affected in the weeks and months ahead.

In Parr, Labour councillor Bisi Osundeko has been distributing food to 100 vulnerable families, supplies which she funded herself, while Catherine Brooks from the Torus foundation has been delivering ‘survival packs’ to homes.

St Helens Star: Some of the essential food that has been distributed to homes in ParrSome of the essential food that has been distributed to homes in Parr

Cllr Osundeko said she wanted to do more for those people in her ward who are experiencing hardship during the pandemic.

Much of the work has been co-ordinated through the ‘Parr helping hands’ Facebook group, set up by Cllr Osundeko with help from fellow Labour councillors Kate Groucutt, Andy Bowden and several other key figures within the community.

“Within the group, we have already witnessed some heart-warming success stories,” Cllr Osundeko said.

“A mum who was in need of some essential items for her baby was helped by another Parr resident who responded to her post in this group.

“We also encouraged our residents to volunteer, especially those who are healthy and fit to do so.

“We have lots of offers from people who have offered to do one kind act or the other for their vulnerable residents in isolation.”

Elsewhere, an army of volunteers have been distributing thousands of letters with key information to homes in Newton-le-Willows.

“It’s important that we use the tools we have to best prepare the public for the coming months,” said Cllr Seve Gomez-Aspron, who produced and printed the leaflets on behalf of Newton Labour Party.

“I and our local Labour Party wanted to produce a list of essential information that someone stuck at home in Newton-le-Willows could use to get whatever help they needed.

“More than 100 residents of Newton-le-Willows are now delivering these to houses to ensure our most elderly and vulnerable have some of the information they need.”

St Helens Star: Leaflets with important coronavirus information has been delivered to homes in Newton-le-WillowsLeaflets with important coronavirus information has been delivered to homes in Newton-le-Willows

‘Newton and Earlestown Helping Hands’ group has also been set up on Facebook to recruit volunteers wishing to help anyone in self-isolation.

“Our community here is fantastic,” Cllr Gomez-Aspron said.

“Times are tough. But we have each other’s backs.”

In Eccleston, Liberal Democrat councillors Michael Haw, Teresa Sims and Geoff Pearl have set up the ‘Eccleston Community Support Group’.

In order to identify those in need of assistance, volunteers have delivered ‘I can help you’ leaflets across Eccleston, Eccleston Park and the surrounding areas.

The leaflets give residents who need to self-isolate or are already in isolation contact details of people they can call on for supplies and services, or simply for a chat.

“More than 4,000 leaflets have been distributed by an army of local volunteers, with lots of great feedback from residents who were feeling anxious and isolated from things,” Cllr Haw said.

“These have ranged from families isolating for 14 days to the elderly who are isolating for longer.

“We are also working to support those working within the NHS, the care sector and teachers.”

St Helens Star: 'I can help' leaflets have been delivered across Eccleston 'I can help' leaflets have been delivered across Eccleston

Elsewhere, ‘Rainford Volunteers’ has been set up by the parish council to recruit help in the area.

The recruitment drive is being aided by Rainford Conservative councillors Linda Mussell, Allan Jones and Rob Reynolds.

Conservative councillors and working with the parish council to coordinate responses and ensure residents are safeguarded via ID checks.

They have also asked local community groups for their support and asked shops to make sure that if someone is using ID, they are shopping for residents.

Volunteers will also be given receipt books to ensure money is accounted for.

In St Helens Town Centre ward, Labour councillors have been keeping residents informed with vital information on the coronavirus outbreak.

Cllr Michelle Sweeney and Carole Ann Gill are also planning to publish a Vlog next week for town centre residents.

In Billinge and Seneley green, Cllr Sue Murphy, deputy leader of St Helens Council, is organising for food bank boxes to be placed in local shops, where residents can donate food.

These food boxes are going to be emptied regularly by volunteers, who will deliver them to The Hope Centre Food bank.

There, volunteers will pick up food for people who have vouchers in the area and deliver to the people in need.

Volunteers are providing a dog walking service for people in self-isolation.

In Rainhill, a support group has been set up by local resident Stuart Baggs, with support from Independent councillors.

‘Rainhill Community Support Group’ now has more than 1,000 members and is already providing a network of willing volunteers.

“I am grateful to live in a great community like Rainhill where people are rallying round to help each other,” said James Tasker, leader of The Independents.

St Helens Star: Coronavirus pod testing at Whiston Hospital A&ECoronavirus pod testing at Whiston Hospital A&E

Over the coming weeks and months, as the coronavirus crisis deepens, it will be paramount this tireless work continues.

In these dark times, people will need the support of their neighbours more than ever.

That will mean putting aside our differences and because, after all, we really are in this together.

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“The coronavirus has really put things into perspective for me personally,” said Cllr Tasker.

“This whole thing has taught me that there is more to life than politics

“I just hope that we all get through this difficult period.”